Sunday, September 03, 2006


There is a fair amount of “buzz” going on in town about Southwestern Seminary and its censoring of Dwight McKissic.

McKissic is a local, black pastor. His church is aligned, I believe, with both the SBC and the National Baptist Convention, which is fairly common for conservative, black congregations. McKissic is also a new trustee on the board of the seminary. He was invited to speak at chapel, and spoke on tongues and the “private prayer language”. You can read the transcript of the sermon on Wade Burleson’s blog.

The sermon is quite thoughtful and well presented. McKissic believes in the expression of tongues in the private prayer setting. This has previously been raised as an issue within the International Mission Board, when Jerry Rankin said he did it.

What made matters really interesting is that Southwestern refused to post the sermon on its website, as it normally does after chapel. It also issued a statement. You can read more about the statement on Burleson’s website, or go to the Seminary website and read it.

There is one statement that I would weigh in on. It said "Furthermore, though most of Rev. McKissic’s message represented a position with which most people at Southwestern would be comfortable, Rev. McKissic’s interpretation of tongues as 'ecstatic utterance' is not a position that we suspect would be advocated by most faculty or trustees. In keeping with Baptist convictions regarding religious liberty, we affirm Rev. McKissic’s right to believe and advocate his position. Equally in keeping with our emphasis of religious liberty we reserve the right not to disseminate openly views which we fear may be harmful to the churches."

First of all, I would like to point out to Dr. Patterson that he has just censored one of his own trustees. This is the equivalent of a CEO telling a board member, to whom he reports, to shut up. That’s pretty amazing.

Second, I’m not sure how important it is that his view is not advocated by most faculty or trustees. He is a trustee. If his view is unacceptable, he should not have been appointed as a trustee. Someone either goofed seriously, or his view is at least tolerable. In addition, if his presentation is based on scripture and it is thoughtfully presented, as it appears to be, why not let it stand? If you oppose it, as seminary president, you have many forums in which to present your ideas. Why not do that, rather than embarrass a Godly pastor who is a community leader and one of your trustees?

Third, it was a bad move to remove the sermon from the website, or to refuse to post it. No one really likes censorship, so the Seminary looks bad. It created a stir where none was necessary. It could have been posted, a few people would have read it, and life would go on. Now, the Seminary has made it a big issue.

Associated Baptist Press ran an article on it. It refers to McKissic as “Trustee McKissic” for extra impact. McKissic has escalated his comments as well. He said "I couldn't figure out how a policy that contradicts the teaching of many of our believing theologians could be enacted like that. That was amazing to me. I was so disappointed by the policy that I gave serious consideration to leading my church out of the Southern Baptist Convention." He went on to say he believes the policy is “an intrusion of privacy, an invasion of privacy, totally unnecessary, and would exclude a great number of Baptists who would make excellent missionaries." He also said it was extra-biblical.

However, when McKissic said he did not think Seminary President Patterson had a problem with his view of tongues, I have to think he is being disingenuous. Patterson has spoken against the practice of tongues before, and is known to be behind some of the trouble Rankin ran into after admitting the practice. I think it is more likely that McKissic knew it was a problem and thought he had the right to address it. That is fine by me, but not saying you didn’t know it was a problem. I agree that Patterson should have addressed it first personally, before criticizing him on the website. So, what we have here is two Christian leaders using explosives. McKissic threw a grenade in the chapel and it went off. Patterson responded with a nuclear missile. Christian love is not expressed or exhibited, the denomination is embarrassed yet again by the misconduct of its leaders, and we cannot figure out why membership is not growing.
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